Signed and dated 'Souza 57' (upper left)
Further signed, titled and dated, 'F.N. SOUZA / PROFILE - 1957' (on the reverse)
Bearing original Gallery One label (on the reverse)
Acquired from Gallery One, London by Mr. Milnes Smith (Thence by descent)
Grosvenor Gallery, London
Sotheby's / Lot 54 / Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art / 7 October 2014
Private collection, Dubai
EXHIBITED AND PUBLISHED
Souza 57, Gallery One, London, 1957
Souza 57 exhibition catalogue (illustrated)
With masterly skills as a draughtsman and as a painter, Francis Newton Souza’s remarkable ability of cultivating good form remains intrinsic to his aesthetic sensibility. His ability to disorganize the image of a human face without resorting to total abstraction and losing the vital aspect of the portraiture is distinctive.
Aside from the nudes, which is a significant part of his oeuvre, Souza is famous for his heads, especially those he executed in the 1950 and 60s - his formative decade. Profile, painted in 1957 is typical of the portraits the artist was producing during this period. The two-dimensional head and torso is monumental like with his other works. The area outside the ‘head’, as in the picture is prepared quite perfunctorily and devoid of context since the figure itself is the only real focus. The eyeless sockets are placed high in the elongated face while the exaggerated nose appears to be a reference to a by-gone era. The wrinkle under the eye and the gnashing teeth produce a menacing facial image. The arrows to the side of the neck refer to afflictions. The head has a distinctive religious countenance combined with elaborate vestment illustrating the artist's fascination with martyrdom or of those ordained for religious duties. Notable is the absence of Souza's signature cross-hatching.
The influence of Spanish Romanesque can be observed in Souza's use of thick black outlines enclosing flat planes of colour. Like Picasso his imagery is stylized and his themes are repetitive but Souza '... is a painter who has developed an imagery which is strongly his own. Perhaps for these reasons he has never yielded easily to the influence of other artists. The result is a synthesis of traditions and styles, and at the same time the evolution of an original talent which has stolen its greatest powers from no one.' (E. Mullins, Souza, 1962, pg.45)